Aesir ruler / WED 12-15-10 / Beethoven dedicatee / Start of incantation / Fifth-century canonized pope / Pesky arachnid
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Constructor: John Lampkin
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: CH- to J- — phrases that start with "CH-" become phrases that start with "J-," with all the attendant wackiness that you'd expect from such a move...
Word of the Day: Nevil SHUTE (16A: "On the Beach" author) —
Nevil Shute Norway (17 January 1899 – 12 January 1960) was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer. He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. [...] On the Beach (1957), Shute's best-known novel, is set in Melbourne, whose population is awaiting death from the effects of an atomic war. It was serialized in more than 40 newspapers, and adapted into a 1959 film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. In 2007, Gideon Haigh wrote an article in The Monthly arguing that On the Beach is Australia's most important novel: "Most novels of apocalypse posit at least a group of survivors and the semblance of hope. On The Beach allows nothing of the kind." (wikipedia)
But these are very minor points. The Major point for me, today, is WIE. Now, Michelle WIE is a famous golfer, and maybe if she'd been the clue, I wouldn't have blinked. But she wasn't. Some German phrase was (29A: "___ geht's?" (German "How are you?")). To be clear, I could look the other way on WIE (Ger.) if there was no way around it, or if it were propping up something really lovely. But ... the "W" exists only (only!) so that the pangram can exist. It is a joyless, pointless "W." Give me a "D." Give me a "P." Hell, give me a "V." "W" is a worse choice than all of those, and it's obvious that the decision was made for pangram (i.e. non-puzzle-enjoyment-related) reasons. I object. Please, constructors, unless you can tie the pangram to your theme somehow, or do something new and interesting with it, spare me. Just make the grid clean and (ideally) snappy. It's all that's important. [For more on why pangrams are, generally, a bad idea, please read this lovely piece by crossword constructing legend Liz Gorski]
Also, if you are changing CH- to J-, then really, shouldn't it be JUMP JANGE? And JATTER? Etc. Consistency = elegance.
- 20A: Athlete who has pigged out on snacks at a bar? (JOCK FULL O' NUTS) — best theme answer, by far
- 31A: Chief [Jeef?] heckler? (JEER LEADER)
- 41A: Skydiver's amended plans? (JUMP CHANGE)
- 53A: Insulation from jokes? (JEST PROTECTOR)
- 5A: Bend one's elbow, e.g. (FLEX) — thought for sure this would be something sot-related.
- 14A: Start of an incantation (ABRA) — one of my least favorite non-words. Likely completely unnecessary. The "J" is the only thing making things weird up there, and there are options for the cross: BENJI, BANJO, etc.
- 18A: Aesir ruler (ODIN) — xwords taught we the word "Aesir." I then promptly built an entire puzzle around it. I then (almost just as promptly) saw that puzzle idea get published by someone else. Aargh.
- 23A: Interstate-championing prez (IKE) — a very weirdly-phrased clue ... which I like for some reason.
- 58A: Astronomy's ___ cloud (OORT) — yet another bit of knowledge I acquired from xwords. Weird to have two of the very, very few "OO-"-starting words in this one grid (see OOZE, 65A: Primordial stuff). OOPS, OOLONG, OOH ...
- 5D: Walk with jerky motions (FLOUNCE) — clue sounds much more ... pathological than I imagine FLOUNCE to be.
- 36D: Bernie Madoff's hedge fund, e.g. (SCAM) — this is like the 5th reference to Madoff I've seen in the past 48 hours, after (mercifully) not hearing (much) about him for the better part of two years. Weird.
- 42D: Say "Hey, batter batter batter" and such (CHATTER) — I'd have left the "Say" out of this clue. the comment itself is (noun) CHATTER.
- 22D: Brand once advertised with the jingle "We wear short shorts ..." (NAIR) — Hmm. I remember "Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts. If you dare wear short shorts, NAIR for short shorts," or something grammatically improbable like that. Am I remembering correctly? Come on youtube, work your magic... (here's an abbreviated version, minus the initial question)
and a little something extra...
- 32D: Beethoven dedicatee (ELISE) — ELISE and EROICA are the main Beethoven answers you need to know for crosswords.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]